There was more anxiety and fear than encouragement in the voices of several Scotland football players as they called out to downed running back Syheam McQueen during the second quarter of Friday’s game against Durham Hillside.
“Get up, Smiley,” they said. “Get up!”
McQueen had just been tackled after a 7-yard rush in Hillside territory. He landed inches away from Scotland’s sideline, where his teammates quickly realized their pleas weren’t helping the senior pick himself up off the field.
The crowd at Pate Stadium held its collective breath as trainers came onto the field to help a visibly distressed McQueen. After losing starting quarterback Bruce Wall to a season-ending ACL tear the week before, Fighting Scots fans were hoping the team’s leading rusher was just shaken up.
That wasn’t the case.
McQueen watched the rest of the game from the bench. He donned a pair of crutches as well as a bag of ice around his injured leg.
Meanwhile, Joseph “Poppa” McKoy and Darrius Dockery took over in the backfield and helped the Scots defeat Hillside 28-12.
However, no margin of victory could alleviate the sting of losing McQueen.
And nothing can explain the injury fiasco that has been a nuisance for the Scots ever since senior Josh McKenzie tore his ACL during preseason workouts.
“It’s gotten to the point where you’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Scotland head coach Richard Bailey said.
Wall, a junior, suffered his injury during the team’s season-opening loss to Matthews Butler in Charlotte. That setback meant the Scots had to turn to a pair of inexperienced sophomores — Tyler Barfield and Mandrell Johnson — to run the offense against Hillside.
McKoy suffered an undisclosed injury in the first quarter of Friday’s game. Luckily for the Scots, he was cleared to play by halftime and went on to finish as the team’s leading rusher with 73 yards and a touchdown.
The injury woes added to the adversity facing a young Scotland team that is short on senior leadership and is still trying to figure out who will start at quarterback for the rest of the season.
Despite those struggles, Scotland continues to face the same high expectations that the program lived up to last season on its way to the state championship game. Those expectations are never going to change, regardless of the circumstances. Bailey understands that.
One win isn’t going to impress anyone in Scotland County. Scotland fans in attendance at Pate Stadium on Friday when Scotland faces Marlboro County will expect more of the same.
But for a team that has received so much bad news this early in the season, Friday’s win was a much-needed morale boost.
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.